Braids shaped into a massive silk fan; extra-long, lacquered strips radiating up and out like sunbeams; a tornado of platinum, swirling just so — the imaginative (and often towering) works dreamed up by hairstylist Cyndia Harvey have a way of looking more like sculpture than hair. “Creativity is a muscle you have to exercise. It doesn’t just happen,” says Harvey. And in the strength of her work, that shows.
I grew up in Jamaica. My mother was a hairdresser, so I’ve always been around hair. Since I was a child, hair has been an important part of my lifestyle, spending most evenings in my mother’s salon, and Sundays on the veranda of my childhood home, sun gazing and getting my hair braided.
I started hairdressing professionally when I was 17, in London. I’ve always loved the tactility of hair; I’m quite a tactile person. I love making things. I love using my hands. I like to feel things. That’s why I was drawn to hair from a young age.
There are things from my upbringing I incorporate into my work every day. It was the skills from my early years working in a hair salon specializing in Afro-textured hair that gave me that edge backstage: knowing how to work with a multitude of textures, expressive artistry such as braiding, and having an expansive vision of the limitless possibilities of hair. I knew things that no one else knew how to do. The best schooling was working for years in a Black hair salon.
But the technical part of hairdressing doesn’t motivate me. I’m inspired by telling stories. It’s easy to do a really slick pony with a center part. What’s not easy is to make someone feel something when they look at a picture. What conversations could happen [from a look]? Hopefully, when you look at my pictures, you get a visceral reaction, more than anything.
I’ve gone from working in the salon to spending years assisting [hairstylist] Sam McKnight, traveling, and working on my own, defining my voice. My work is all about an illusion. The [glossy, bejeweled] hair at Simone Rocha’s spring 2022 show was heavily inspired by the rituals of baptism, wetting the baby’s head. I wanted to capture that exact moment in real time — a freeze-frame of water droplets dripping down onto the hair. These runway shows are very spontaneous and very high-adrenaline.